DEMOCRATIC lawmakers have formally protested against the Navy’s dismissal of the commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, who requested urgent aid to stop a coronavirus outbreak on board his ship.
Lawmakers from both chambers of Congress formally requested on Friday that the Pentagon’s independent Inspector General immediately investigates the firing of Captain Brett Crozier.
Crozier was relieved of his command last Thursday after his request for help to contain the coronavirus outbreak on his ship was leaked to the media.
‘Given the extraordinary circumstances under which these events took place, we believe a closer examination by a neutral third party is warranted,’ Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.) wrote in a letter to Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, which was co-signed by 15 of their colleagues.
The letter requests an investigation into the events leading to the dismissal of Crozier, who was highly regarded by his ship’s crew for risking his career for the sake of their health and safety.
‘It is essential that your office conduct a comprehensive investigation to avoid any potential conflicts of interest within the Navy chain of command, and we encourage you to evaluate all relevant matters associated with the dismissal and the outbreak on the ship,’ the Senators wrote in their letter.
Separately, House Democratic Represtentatives Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) also wrote to Fine on Friday, demanding ‘an investigation into this matter as soon as possible.’
They stated: ‘As veterans, we were taught that protecting the health and safety of troops is one of the highest priorities of any commander,’ adding that they were ‘disturbed’ by the abrupt dismissal of Crozier by the Navy.
Last Thursday evening, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly announced he had dismissed Crozier from command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Crozier had warned in a letter prior to his dismissal that a number of the serving sailors had tested positive to the novel coronavirus, and if most of the crew on board the Roosevelt weren’t evacuated and treated quickly they might all perish due to the uncontrollable spreading of the virus on board.
‘If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors,’ Crozier wrote.
As of Friday, 137 sailors out of the estimated 5,000 crew on board the nuclear US war ship had been infected despite all measures to prevent the spreading of the virus.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt is currently docked in the strategic Guam Naval Base in the Pacific Ocean.
- Just three weeks ago, Miguel Rodriguez (55) had ‘a comfortable living situation’ working as a waiter in a Maryland restaurant in a job he’d held for 20 years.
But everything changed overnight when La Ferme, a French restaurant in the upscale Chevy Chase suburb of Washington, was forced to close amid statewide shutdowns to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
His wife, a waitress at another restaurant, also lost her job.
The pandemic instantly threw millions of US workers off the payroll and into poverty, in a crisis that is revealing and further exacerbating inequalities in the world’s largest economy.
Low-income and working-class households will be the first and hardest hit, and they have little in the way of savings.
‘This is an extraordinary blow to millions of Americans who had barely recovered from the 2008 financial crisis,’ said Edward Alden, an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Real wages took eight years to recover after the crisis, and had only accelerated for lower-paid workers in the past two years, he said.
Wages in 2019 rose at the fastest rate in 20 years partly thanks to some states increasing the minimum wage.
‘This crisis, with the huge increase it is bringing in unemployment, will erase those gains,’ Alden warned.
A decade of employment gains came to an abrupt halt in March, as the economy jettisoned 701,000 jobs and the unemployment rate posted the biggest increase in 45 years, rising to 4.4 percent.
President Donald Trump, who is running for re-election in November, regularly touts the record low unemployment among Hispanics and Afro-Americans.
But the jobless rate for both groups surged last month.
Even during years of economic growth, inequalities have continued to widen between wealthiest Americans – who accumulated substantial gains on Wall Street – and the bottom 90 per cent.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the global economy into recession and the downturn ‘will exacerbate inequality,’ said Gregory Daco, chief economist at Oxford Economics.
Nearly 10 million workers filed for unemployment insurance in the final two weeks of March 2020, and those ‘sudden job losses are concentrated in the low-income service sectors’ in a country with few social safety nets and an extremely low savings rate of around eight per cent.
Miguel Rodriguez is ‘saddened’ to have to rely on unemployment benefits for the first time since arriving in the United States in 1983 from El Salvador.
And he worries payments, which do not take into account tips which make up the majority of his earnings, will not be enough to provide for his three children.
‘I have some savings now but I can survive for only a couple of months,’ he said.
He is not alone: half of all Americans do not have emergency savings to deal with unforeseen financial difficulties, according to Daco’s Oxford Economics survey.
The still-exploding coronavirus pandemic in the US will increase the country’s suicide rate and domestic violence, as well as causing massive poverty and permanent business closures.
In the lowest-income households the situation is more dire, as three-quarters lack a financial cushion.
‘So it’s the people who need it most who have the least,’ Daco said.
And as the coronavirus continues to spread, it remains unclear how long the economic shutdown will last.
Bradley Hardy, professor at the American University, cautioned: ‘We must brace for impacts on employment and wages that would last into at least early 2021.
‘Given low savings rates and high levels of installment debt, many US households do not have the needed cushion to push through the economic headwinds that have arrived,’ he said.
Just like the 2008 global financial crisis, Alden said, this one has highlighted the enormous vulnerability of many Americans.
Lower-income individuals are woefully unprepared for retirement, and many Americans into their 70s and 80s will likely have to continue to work.
The Saint Louis branch of the Federal Reserve found that among those who lack a high school diploma, only 22 per cent have a retirement savings plan. And even when they do, the median balance is only $35,000.
But Hardy said this recession will have negative impacts across the income distribution, including for some ostensibly well-off households.
‘Any threat to their income flow would therefore be quite dangerous for these families’ he said, and ‘this is disproportionately true for black working class households.’
Rodriguez is trying to remain hopeful even though he has a mortgage and a car loan to pay.